Islamic Law in U.S. Courts: Cloyd v. Dulin (M.D. Tenn. 2012): Religious Accommodations for Prisoners

Plaintiff Sturgeon Stewart, an inmate at the Kansas Department of Corrections (KDOC) brought suit against Respondents Vernestene Dulin, head of prison food services, and various other prison officials for alleged violations of his rights to religious free exercise on the claim that the prison served Muslim inmates the same ḥalāl food menu for all meals of the day, and that these meals excluded meat. alāl food is meat prepared in accordance with Islamic ritual law, and free of pork and alcohol. The Plaintiff contended that this repetition was not a nutritional religious-accommodating alternative to regular prison meals. The Court found for the Respondents, determining that Muslim prisoners do not have a right under the First Amendment or the RLUIPA to be provided ḥalāl meat entrees. Rather, a correctional facility need only provide Muslim prisoners with food that is not arām (prohibited under Islamic law). The Court found that, as long as the Plaintiff was given an alternative to eating non-ḥalāl meat, he did not suffer a substantial burden to his religious beliefs. The Court determined that the Plaintiff had been provided with alternatives to non-ḥalāl meat, but that the Plaintiff was “simply not happy with the substitutions offered.” Therefore, the Court concluded that the Plaintiff’s factual allegations, construed as true, failed to establish a violation of the Plaintiff’s federal rights.

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